The Monuments of the Sertorii
In the early Roman Empire, it was fashionable for wealthy soldiers to put up a stone with an inscription and their portrait at their tomb. Two such soldiers were Quintus and Lucius Sertorius, who erected their monuments at Cisolino (about 10 miles east of Verona) sometime in the late first century CE.
The slab at the left belongs to Quintus Sertorius Festus. The rod in his right hand indicates that he was a centurion with the right to beat soldiers. The inscription reads Q SERTORIUS/L. F POB FESTUS/CENTUR LEG XI CLAUDIAE PIAE/FIDELIS or in English “Quintus Sertorious Festus, Lucius’ son, of the tribe Poblilia, centurion of legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis.”
The slab at the right belongs to Lucius Sertorius Firmus. The eagle standard (aquila) in his right hand indicates that he was the aqulifer or bearer of the sacred standard of the legion. The Clauss-Slaby database transcribes the inscription as L(ucius) Sertorius L(uci) f(ilius) / Pob(lilia) Firmus / signif(er) aquil(ifer) leg(ionis) XI / Claud(iae) Piae Fidelis / missus curat(or) veter(anorum) / leg(ionis) eiusdem / Domitiae L(uci) f(iliae) / Priscae uxori. I translate that as “Lucius Sertorius, son of Lucius, of the tribe Poblilia, standard bearer and aquilifer of legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis, honorably discharged, curator of the veterans of the same legion, (dedicates this monument) to Domitia Lucius’ daughter and Prisca his wife.”
Behind the standing slabs is an altar with a third inscription. It reads DIS MANIBUS / L . SERTORIO / L . F . POB / SISENNAE / PATRI / TERENTIAE . L . F / MAXIMAE MATRI. The altar was dedicated “to the memory of Lucius Sertorius Sisenna, Lucius’ son, of the tribe Poblilia, father, and of Terentia Maxima, Lucius’ daughter, mother.” The altar would have been erected at their tomb, and Quintus and Lucius probably intended to be buried at the same place when they died.
The inscriptions were eventually printed in the Corpus Inscriptionorm Latinarum as numbers CIL 5, 3374 (Quintus), 5, 3375 (Lucius), and 5, 3347 (parents). Some thoughtful scholars in Germany have digitized that volume on the Arachne website.
These inscriptions compactly describe a small family: Lucius Sertorius Sisenna and Terentia Maxima the parents, their children Quintus Sertorius Festus, Lucius Sertorius Firmus, and Domitia, and Prisca the wife of the younger Lucius. We might guess that Lucius was the elder brother, since he received his father’s praenomen, was already discharged, received what was probably the higher office, and erected the more splendid monument. In the Roman empire, people often put up monuments to themselves while alive, since life was uncertain and erecting the monument while living was a way to make sure that one would have it in death. The stone probably dates to the late first century CE, since legio XI was given the rolling title legio XI Claudia pia fidelis (“Claudius’ trusty and loyal eleventh legion”) in the year 42, and as Jona Lendering writes that successive emperors moved the legion further and further from Italy (source). An art historian or epigrapher might be able to date it more closely based on the style or the letter forms, but I am travelling and cannot check whether one has done so. For the same reason, I cannot explain what a curator of the veterans did or whether aquiliferi commonly took that role when they retired.
The Sertorii were clearly proud of their achievements and their family. They now sit in a quiet portico of the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano, Verona, where they are still telling passers-by about themselves.